There has been much ado about Volkswagen’s 2013 Super Bowl ads. New York Times writer Charles Blow said the ad was “blackface with voices.” Jamaican-born journalist Christopher John Farley expressed his opinion in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. As for myself, I’m not sure how I feel about this ad.
“it’s off-putting to see the Island spirit used as a punchline. The Jamaican aesthetic–shaped by such Jamaican-born notables as Bob Marley, Marcus Garvey and the revolutionary Nanny of the Maroons–is founded on positive vibration, not mindless happiness” ~Christopher John Farley
I find the ad sort of offensive in that a non-Jamaican white man is speaking with a Jamaican voice as if “everything little thing is gonna be alright” seemingly implying that Jamaicans are a monolithic group who never have anything to worry about. Of course, we know this is far from the truth. What’s more disturbing to me is that this “Get in Get Happy” ad campaign is produced by a German company Volkswagen. The Germans don’t have a great track record when it comes to race relations..I’m just sayn’.
Probably in an effort to be “sensitive” to these issues, Volkswagen brilliantly decided to employ the help of some Jamaicans in the production of this campaign. To that end, Volkswagen employed reggae icon Jimmy Cliff to sing the teaser and used a group of Jamaicans as a focus group. The end result yielded the ad teaser featuring Jimmy Cliff which is indeed brilliant. The follow-up “blackface with voices” ad not so brilliant!
On the other hand, I have to admit I did find it funny and sometimes we should be able to laugh at ourselves but is this at the expense of Caribbeans and/or Jamaicans? At the end of the day though isn’t imitation supposed to be the most sincere form of flattery? What do you think?
Shout out to Maddnesslive.com for bringing this to my attention!